Monday, January 27, 2014

White Heart

White Heart –by Sherry Jones

Fiction, Historical
343 KB / 61 pages
4 Stars

I expected a novel, not a short story, in that regard, I was sorely disappointed. It was a great read, just too short! And, I do want more, so will pick up Four Sisters, All Queens.

European history is not my most favorite reading (I tend toward Asian histories) so it was a switch for me to read this story of Blanche of Castille and how she wrested control of France after her husband's death for her son, the 9th Louis, and managed to keep it.

If you're looking for a novel, don't pick it up. If you're looking for a pleasant and well written read, this just may be your ticket.


Sharks: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nature – by Emma Child

Nonfiction, Children
655 KB / 29 pages
4 Stars

This is the third book by Ms. Child I have read and reviewed. To be totally honest, I wasn't too sure I wanted to read about sharks before turning my light off, and I was pleasantly surprised.

There are many interesting facts written in an engaging style that should appeal to both children and the adults who may end up reading it to them. Several times.

Considering there are 368 different kinds of sharks out there, I'm not surprised she couldn't talk about all of them, but the ones she did discuss had interesting facts in their favor. I wish she had been able to write about the sharks in Florida that come into Shark Valley (a part of the Everglades).

I had no idea they had so many teeth (3,000) that constantly regrow. That some sharks swim with their mouth open sucking in whatever is in front of them, and others go looking for that special food. (By the way, I believe sea turtles are amphibians, not mammals.) Or that some bear their young live, and others lay eggs.

A great introduction to a budding Marine Biologist.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sisters of the Bruce tell his story

Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 –by J. M. Harvey

Fiction, Historical
965 KB / 397 Pages
5 Stars

I love good historical fiction, and I love this book! I tremendously enjoyed that most of the story was told through the correspondence of the sisters of Robert the Bruce. Although my grandfather was genealogist of the family, and now his namesake and a cousin have taken on the mantle, I know little of the history of Scotland. One would think with all I've been privy to growing up, that I would have absorbed at least some of it. I did not even know that I am a distant relation to Robert the Bruce until my cousin told me, and showed me. I sort of knew who he (Robert) was, but only sort of. My historical interests lie elsewhere.

However, this book intrigued me, and I bought it (Kindle edition), and was reading it as my bedtime read. Today, I succumbed, and spent the better part of the afternoon on the sofa, and finished it. All of it. I read the Glossary, the notes--I read everything!

Scotland of the early 1300s is probably not a place I'd choose to live, but those who were there (by choice or by birth) were a hardy lot. The Bruce men were, for the most part, warriors, though one was also a scholar. The women were feisty and strong. This is not a novel about the sisters, per se; it is a novel about Robert as seen through the eyes of his sisters. It is about difficult times and hard survival. It is about family and loyalty. It is a mighty fine read!

When the oldest, Isa was taken to Norway to marry King Eric, she and her next younger sister, Kirsty began a correspondence that tells much of the story. It tells of their hardships, and it tells of the beauty they find in their marriages and situations. It tells of war and the hardships endured by the women who are unwilling witnesses. Did the sisters actually correspond? I haven't a clue; however, it was not only possible, but plausible.

When the English, with the help of duplicitous Scots, capture Kirsty and Mary, two of the sisters, and Marjorie, Robert's young daughter, and Elizabeth, his wife, the letters obviously take a turn. Those not captured escape to Orkney, under protection of Norway.

How those women survived is beyond my ken! Obviously they had the choice to survive or to die, but they survived some of the most brutal hardships imaginable, much of which comes out in the letters. Survival in medieval Scotland and England was, at best, difficult. Imagine being placed in a cage and exposed to the elements year round. Even those not subjected to the elements did not have it easy.

The author took a difficult subject, did her homework, and put together a book I had a hard time putting down! She wove a believable story using people from history and fictional characters. This is a novel; it is not a scholarly work of history, though it is obvious Ms. Harvey has read several such tomes in order to write this story.

Fun Facts About Horses

Horses: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nature (Amazing Animal Kingdom Series) –by Emma Child

Nonfiction, Children
1056 KB / 33 pages
4 Stars

Like her book about Dinosaurs, this book on Horses is written in a child-friendly manner. Her style is easy to read, engaging, and her subject matter interesting.

What child, especially a girl, hasn't dreamed of owning her or his own horse at one time or another?

There are lots of interesting facts in this book, such as the classification "pony" refers to the size of the horse, not a breed or age. Male horses have more teeth than female horses, who knew?

The photographs compliment the text beautifully.

If you have a child in your life, especially one born and raised in the city, this is an excellent book for them to read and broaden their horizons and knowledge base.

I was furnished with a review copy.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Killing

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Kindle Edition) by LTC Dave Grossman

863 KB / 400 pages
2 Stars

I'm not sure how to review this book. I bought it because I write novels, and now and then people die, and I was looking for something that would tell me what goes through the mind of the one who causes the death. A firm believer in the "no such thing as a free lunch," I'm pretty sure that for most people, the taking of, or suspected taking of, another human's life is traumatic. I was looking for case studies. I found more useful information, for me, on reruns of M*A*S*H and NCIS.

As a noncombat veteran of the Vietnam era, I had ample opportunity to talk to many GIs who had seen combat. Their stories, and the stories told to LTC Grossman differed, greatly. Perhaps because he was an Officer and I was Enlisted Swine? Perhaps because he spoke testosterone and I spoke estrogen? I don't know. But I do know that the stories I heard about the My Lai incident from men who were there were vastly different than the stories he recounted. Perhaps all the stories are true, and distance from the event shapes the memories into something more easily acceptable by both the witnesses and society.

I truly do not understand how anyone with his advanced combat training never saw combat, but that has nothing to do with the book, other than I think it colors his overall reporting. He mentions, with justifiable pride, the courses he took, and survived, but then hastens to state he never saw combat. The Army spent a great deal of money training him for combat, why didn't they send him? Think how he could have helped those GIs if he could have related to them on a combat experience. Think of the good he could have done "on site."

His research, if that's what it was, seemed to come from casual conversations with no formal questionnaires, and nothing that was peer reviewed or vetted. He talks about PTSD as if it was something the Vietnam Vet invented, when in fact it had been around for hundred, thousands, of years, but had was not formally named until the era of Vietnam.

I certainly do not recommend the Kindle version, if you are a reader of footnotes. I found it very difficult to go from the text to the footnote and then back to the text. I am one who loves footnotes, but gave up. I read some of them when I got to the end, but by then they meant little.

There is a psychological cost in learning to kill, and then in doing the actual killing. And I think distance, both physical and psychologically, plays a role in that cost. For an excellent description of that cost, and a great read, I suggest The Gate to Women's Country –by Sheri S. Tepper.